Saturday, June 12, 2004

Trustees want to close crime motel


Mount Airy Motel had 63 calls to police in three-month span

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

GREEN TOWNSHIP - Township leaders and residents are pushing to shut down a North Bend Road motel they say is the site of criminal activity.

The Mount Airy Motel in Monfort Heights has been the target of numerous complaints from neighboring residents and business owners in recent weeks. They say that, over the past two years, the motel has attracted the wrong clientele and serves as a breeding ground for all sorts of crime.

mao "Day and night I watch from my front porch the drug dealing and prostitution that takes place at the motel," said Jason Snow, who lives on North Bend Road. "Women have tried to solicit sex from me, others have panhandled."

Carol McMahan, a Monfort Heights resident, told township trustees that she witnessed a young woman being kicked and beaten by three men outside of the motel.

"I called the police and stayed on the line with the dispatcher as I continued to watch this beating," she said. "The police came but the perpetrators ran around the outside of the building."

Lt. Col. Bart West, Green Township's assistant police chief, said officers are called to the motel almost daily to make arrests and deal with patrons engaged in drug activity, domestic squabbles, thefts and assaults. Police were called to the motel 63 times in a span of three months this year. West said the motel was the township's No. 1 crime hot spot.

"It's an ongoing problem due to the clientele," West said. "There is a fair amount of criminal activity for such a small place."

Township officials said there is also evidence guests are staying at the motel longer than the 30-day maximum allowed by law. The motel's owner, Seung Lee, submitted lodging receipts to the township for tax purposes that showed many guests stayed more than 30 days from 2002 to 2004.

Township trustees have asked the state Fire Marshal's Office, which regulates hotels and motels, to revoke Mount Airy's operating license because of the violation.

"Part of the problem is these people need a place to hang out and when they are given the place to hang out they take advantage of it," said Trustee Steve Grote. "If they are forced to move on, it's a problem that will still exist somewhere, but it won't exist in Green Township at the Mount Airy Motel."

Lee, the motel's owner, did not return phone calls to his residence or the motel.

Doug Pessler, who has owned the North Bend Express service station across the street since 1997, said not all the people who stay at the motel are bad. But he said his business has been hurt by break-ins, shoplifting and panhandling from motel guests.

"The number of police dispatches is what sticks out the most in my mind," Pessler said.

The motel has also had a history of code violations with the Green Township Fire Department and the Hamilton County General Health District. However, both agencies say the motel is currently in compliance with the law.

"We've got them on a pretty short inspection cycle," said Chris Eddy, director of environmental health for the health district. "We want to make sure they stay there."

A spokesman for the state fire marshal said a hearing on whether to revoke the motel's operating license was held in April, but no action has been taken. Even if the motel's license should be revoked, the owner could reapply.

"We are not trying to pick on anybody," said Green Township Fire Chief Robert Weitzel. "We just want our neighborhoods to be safe."

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E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com




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